Plans for a 70-foot high dry stack boat storage facility on Fiji Way are unpopular but still treading water

By Gary Walker

A boat-stacking dry dock facility like this one could store nearly 350 boats along Marina del Rey’s Basin H
Image courtesy of L.A. County Dept. of Regional Planning

For all that a dry stack boat storage facility proposed for Marina del Rey would offer in land-use efficiency, it still lacks community support.

The 47,100-square-foot Boat Central structure would stand 70 feet high on County Parcel 52 at 13483 Fiji Way, with water access for boats displacing Marina del Rey Sportfishing and other charter services that launch from slips at Dock 52.

Boat Central would employ a five-ton jib crane and multiple launch/retrieval elevators to store boats in 345 berths on six levels, with 30 additional spaces for mast-up sailboat storage, 134 automobile parking spaces for boaters and a 1,560-square-foot public promenade along the waterfront.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had planned to discuss the proposal by developers MDR Boat Central L.P. in November, but instead they sent the project back to the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors for additional review. The county’s Regional Planning Commission gave a green light to the project in April 2013, and the California Coastal Commission approved it last year.

According to a county staff report, the storage stacking method would “greatly reduce the need for land area needed for boat storage.”

But local boaters and developers who lease residential and retail parcels from the county — two constituencies that usually disagree about redevelopment in Marina del Rey — take issue with the project, including how it looks and whether it’s even needed.

Marina Lessees Association President David Levine said his organization has been against building a dry stack facility since the proposal first surfaced in 2003.

Levine said the association’s key issues are the building’s height and the fact that part of it would extend over the water.

“Our opposition has been consistent, including at the Small Craft Harbors and Design Control Board commissions or before Regional Planning,” he said. “We’re also very concerned about the project’s economic viability. I think that it is unlikely that it will be as low-cost as some of the out of the water options,” he said.

Michael Leneman, who owns the boat sales, design and consulting firm Multi Marine on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, initially supported the boat storage concept, but not anymore.

Developer Pacific Ventures LLC is also planning to build a dry dock storage facility as part of renovations to Pier 44 on Admiralty Way, and Leneman says there’s no need for two such facilities.

“I’ve seen [stacked storage] work very well in many places in Florida. That’s why I thought it was a good idea,” he said. But, “Why do we need this county-run storage place when you have a private entity that’s going to build one? That makes no sense whatsoever.”

Leneman also takes issue with the Fiji Way storage building’s planned design.

“The Pier 44 storage place won’t hang over the water. I don’t know any sailors who are happy with the design,” Leneman said.

Both Leneman and Levine also said there are existing mast-up storage vacancies in the marina, further questioning the need for such a large facility.

But county officials foresee a much more active and more densely developed Marina del Rey in years to come. The guiding document for the marina’s redevelopment aims to make room for more retail, restaurant and entertainment options for locals and visitors alike.

Marina residents and small boat owners have consistently pushed back against increased density and other changes, however.

Public pressure played a big role in former L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe’s 2014 decision to scrap plans to relocate the public boat launch from Fiji Way. More than 150 boaters had complained during a county Small Craft Harbors Commission meeting that the move was not only inconvenient, but would expose launching boats to unsafe wind conditions.

A similar rejection could happen with Boat Central “because no one I know has really been in favor of it,” Leneman said. “The case against the launch was that it was dangerous if it was moved. The case on the stacked storage is they haven’t shown that there’s a need for it.”